Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Honk if you pump

One of the most interesting things about returning to the Japanese workplace has been accomodating pumping around an environment that is simply not accustomed to it. In a country where there are so many baby rooms that there is a special smartphone app dedicated to finding a place where you can diaper, bottle or breast feed your baby, most workplaces have almost no experience dealing with the needs of pumping moms. Namely, a private area and planning around evenly spaced 20-30 minute pumping sessions several times a day.

A very simple, but completely unexpected lactation area at the Hiroshima Carp stadium.
I've since found them at every baseball stadium we've visited.
Women in Japan can take up to year of partially paid parental leave and at least some government agencies allow mothers to take up to 3 years of unpaid leave and still return to their agencies. Not surprisingly, this is also reflected in the marketplace, where double pumps, hands-free pumping bras, and other related items are hard to find. Women might keep a single pump for the occasional afternoon away from their baby, but few need to pump routinely.

Maybe I can work here next?
A lactation room at the White House.
Beyond the lack of demand for pumping rooms, the Japanese workplace is not very conducive to it either. Everyone sits at adjoining desks in an an open room, and  it’s unusual for people to leave their desks. If I were to work long-term in a Japanese office, I might take up smoking just to have an acceptable excuse to leave my desk every few hours for more than a bathroom break and lunch. 

In any case, the point is there is no privacy and people are always aware of your comings and goings because they sit right next to you. But three times a day, I mysteriously disappear with a black backpack for about 30 minutes. A lactation consultant unfamiliar with the Japanese office recently advised me to try and pump at my desk so that I could squeeze in an extra session without taking more time from work. Now that would attract some attention from, well, all 60 people in my completely open office. 

Despite these issues, each of my offices has been very accommodating even if they are not always sure how to handle the situation. I was amused to be given  a tour of possible lactation rooms with 3 male colleagues, and then barely contained my laughter when one honked imaginary breasts whenever he said “pumping.” It's been quite a learning process for all of us.

I'll miss the amazing baby rooms.
Check out these pics from the Mitsukoshi Department store.
Private nursing area

Hot water machine for formula

Vending machine for drinks for you.
Options for older kids too.

Standing diaper "table" for toddlers
She was a bit smaller here at around 2 months.

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